A batch of new picture books have gathered in my office over the summer. Some with 2019 titles. Some were recommended by colleagues and students. Some seemed ideal to reference in my forthcoming Pembroke Publishers’ title  TEACHING TOUGH TOPICS. A brief synopsis and a brief rationale for choosing this book accompanies each title.


 WORM LOVES WORM J.J. Austrian; illus. Mike Curato (2016)

What: Worm is in love with Worm and their animal friends help prepare for the wedding. Either   worm can be the groom. Either worm can be the bride.

Why: Gender differences, families, and same sex marriage – for youngsters! (Topic: Gender Identity)


A BIKE LIKE SERGIO’S by Maribeth Boelts; illus. Noah Z. Jones (2016)

What: Ruben finds a one hundred-dollar bill  – and now he can afford to buy a new bike. Should he do the right thing and return the money to its rightful owner.

Why:  A book to help children think about what’s right and what’s wrong. And the have’s and the have not’s. A beautiful companion to Boelt’s “Those Shoes” to help children think about wants and needs.  (Topic: Poverty)


YARD SALE by Eve Bunting; illus. Lauren Castillo (2015)

What:  It’s hard to let go of stuff  that has been important to you a Yard sale, even though it’s for the family time to move to a smaller place.

Why: A story about letting go of things, moving on, and realizing that there’s more to life than the our possessions. (Topic: Poverty)


14 COWS FOR AMERICA by Carmen Agra Deedy; illus. Thomas Gonzalez (2009)

What: A gift of 14 cows from the Masai tribe in Kenya to the United States Embassy in Nairobi following September 11, 2001.

Why: This book of honour and strength and generosity needs to be shared in every classroom. (Topic: Kindness)


DRUM DREAM GIRL by Margarita Engle; illus. Rafael Lopez (2015)

What: Newbery Honour Winner about ‘how one girls’ courage changed music’. Inspired by a Chinese-African- Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s taboo against female drummers.

Why: A celebration of music. A story of perseverance. (Topic: Gender equity)


ADA’S VIOLIN: The story of the recycled orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood; illus. Sally Wern Comport (2016)

What: The children of Paraguay played instruments made from recycled trash and ended up performing concerts around the world. This is the story of how they orchestra came to because of man’s vision, and one girls dreams.

Why: Resilience. Determination. (Topic: Poverty)


IDA ALWAYS by Caron Levis; illus. Charles Santoso (2016)

What: A true story of true love – between two bears.

Why: Those who were part of our hearts will always be there, even when they are gone. (Topic: Loss and Death). (see also Always With You by Eric Walters)


BIG WORDS FOR LITTLE GENIUSES by Susan and James Patterson; illus. Hsinping Pan

What: An alphabet book of unusual – big – words (definitions provided). (e.g., catawampus; dulcifluous, empyreal). A worthy companion to The Word Collector by Peter Reynolds.

Why: It’s important to engage readers of all ages with a celebration of the looks, sounds, and meanings of words in order to increase their word power with reading, writing and talk (See Word by Word by Larry Swartz, Pembroke, 2019)


LITTLE LIBRARIES, BIG HEROES by Miranda Paul; illus. John Parra (2019)

What: The story of Todd Bol who became the founder of the Little Free Library movement where millions of books have been shared in ‘little libraries’ into outdoor neighbourhoods throughout the world.

Why: A love of books. And those who choose to share books with others. (Topic: Kindness)


HIAWATHA AND THE PEACEMAKER by Robbie Robertson; illus. David Shannon (2015)

What: The story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker  and the uniting of the five Haudenosaunee (Iroquois tribes)

Why: The message of peace informing readers about the ways of the Iroquois people. A must-read to help students gain understanding of Indigenous culture. Staggering visuals by David Shannon. Includes a CD featuring an original song by the author. (Topic: Indigenous Culture)


MEMOIRS OF A HAMSTER by Devin Scillian; illus. Tim Bowers (2013)

What: An amusing – informative – recount of fourteen nights in the life of Seymour the Hamster.

Why: First person voice. An engaging, original approach to memoir writing.


THE CHANGE YOUR NAME STORE by Leanne Shirtcliffe; illus. Tina Kugler (2014)

What: Wilma Lee Wu does not like her name and frequent visit to the neighbourhood store help her consider alternatives. Told in rhyme.

Why: Inspires students to share stories about their own names. (Topic: Identity)


SMALL IN THE CITY by Sydney Smith

What: A story of a small boy who gets lost as he wanders about the city, taking wrong paths, combating bad weather until he finds his way back home.

Why: A story of persverance and resilience.  “Devastating!” (CBC, September 17, 2019)


These two Canadian picture books are treasures.  Both titles were inspired by important people in the authors’ lives. Each is the ideal selection to inspire connections and special memories of people and places. Both books are gifts and both will likely be passed on as gifts. 


 Eric Walters; illus. Carloe Liu

A beautiful story that journeys over the years. Emily’s grandfather passed away and over the years she receives advice (in the form of fold-out letters) as she reaches various life milestones that include school, marriage and giving birth. Yes, a ‘timeless story about grief, growing up, and  cherished memories of those who are “always with you”.  A gem! (Topic: Loss and death)

by David Booth; illus. Renia Metallinou  (2019)

(from Promo material)

Willa’s House, David Booth’s final book, is a tribute to women teachers, the joy in life’s small moments, and to home.

In Willa’s House, author David Booth takes us on a nostalgic walk back to the quiet contentment of calmer times. Based on a true story, this heartwarming chronicle of a teacher’s life in a small Canadian town illustrates the tragedies and triumphs that centre around this one home. These events demonstrate Willa’s strong ties to family, friends, and students as well as the ways in which she makes a lasting impact on her community. With her less-than-typical trajectory, Willa shows us that there is more than one way to lead a fulfilling life.

 Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Professor David Booth Memorial Bursary (OISE, University of Toronto).
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